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Neighbors

No one wants to be seen as the bad guy, the mean-spirited, not-in-my-backyard grump out to block progress. Yet some Press readers have said that by characterizing as opponents those who have raised concerns about marijuana cultivation on South Shaker Road or a cider taproom at Carlson Orchards, the paper has unfairly and inaccurately portrayed well-meaning neighbors and other residents just that way.

Conflict is catnip to a news organization, and it’s all too easy to classify those for and against a proposal as supporters or opposers. It doesn’t help that at hearings and town meeting, speakers are often asked to comment as one or the other.

But when change comes to a neighborhood, residents are bound to have concerns, and as we have been reminded, voicing them does not mean you are necessarily against it. An anonymous commenter at our website perhaps said it best when he or she wrote that voicing concern about increased traffic, noise, or safety in the Oak Hill Road neighborhood that abuts Carlson Orchards is not about being “anti-farmer or anti-progress or anti-Carlson.” “Rather,” the commenter wrote, “it’s about being pro-residents, pro-safety, and pro-progress in a thoughtful, respectful, and inclusive way.” The same could be said for South Shaker Road residents who worry about the presence of a cannabis farm next door.

Farmers in Harvard, which has been voted a farmer-friendly town by its residents, face a range of financial and climate challenges. Their commercial success is vital to preserving Harvard’s character. Farm-based taprooms and restaurants and marijuana cultivation, sometimes in residential areas, have the potential to supplement farm incomes. And one way or another, as Planning Board member R.J. Rushmore says in this week’s Consider This column, development is coming to town. New tools, he writes, are needed to ensure change is constructive and to preserve what Harvard residents value.

What’s required are solutions, not positions—solutions that accommodate the legitimate concerns of affected residents but go beyond simple my-way-or-the-highway proposals. Solutions are most likely to be found through listening, conversation, and dialogue. Sometimes mediation can help. We look to our town officials to guide that discussion and to choose wisely when it comes time to set conditions for promising new ventures.

As for the Press, we’ll redouble our efforts to report on the issues as completely, accurately, and fairly as possible, and to provide a forum for constructive comments on all sides of the question at hand. We encourage readers to submit their ideas in letters to the editor and to use our online commenting system to remark on our news stories.

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